The YMCA of Greater Boston held an association-wide essay contest in the spring, asking our teens to tell us about their dreams and how the YMCA is helping them. We received many wonderful submissions and decided the contest would not only have one winner, Kasandra Baptista from Huntington Avenue YMCA, but also two runners up - Andres Magra and Reda Darouanou.
Here is Reda Darouanou's inspiring journey with the YMCA. Reda was a runner up in the contest and a teen member of the East Boston YMCA. Stories like his show the importance of all youth being given the opportunity to discover themselves in a safe, fun and education environment.
Branch: East Boston YMCA
Opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. In East Boston opportunities for teens were not always available. But thanks to the East Boston YMCA, circumstances are now working in our favor.
I have been attending the East Boston Y’s Teen Program for the past two years. At first it was just a safe place to hang out and work out on weekend nights for free. But a year ago, I met Carlos Fuentes, the Teen Program Leader at the Y, and he showed me every opportunity that was available. Carlos is more than an advisor; in the year that I have known him he has been a teacher, a guide, and most importantly a friend. He brought experts to the Y who taught important skills like how to build my resume and how to present myself when interviewing for a job. Carlos listened to my problems and gave me advice as a friend and a professional, and also helped me to figure out how to tackle a problem myself.
Carlos did something for me and that no one else has, he believed in me. He saw the potential I had and helped me understand what I could accomplish. He worked hard to make sure that I am not another statistic— just another kid from the neighborhood who was destined to fail. I learned that I didn’t have to fit in, rather I should stand out.
Thanks to the Y I joined the Y’s Leader’s Club, becoming a volunteer and growing as an individual. As part of the Leader’s Club I was able to attend the Leader’s Club Winter Rally this past February in Connecticut. I joined 300 other teens from across Massachusetts in an amazing experience camping in the woods, playing winter sports, attending workshops and trainings that helped me realize what my passion in life is and the next steps I need to take to make sure I achieve my goals.
And thanks to the YMCA and the Boston Youth Fund I have a job at the Y, which has helped my family and I tremendously. I worked in the summer program and now I work in the after-school program. I need the money, and the work experience. I was nervous about it being my first job but the staff and kids at the Y are amazing and they were very welcoming, especially my supervisor Quiessy. I am very grateful to the Y for all that I am learning.
If I was not heavily involved at the YMCA, I do not know where I will be. I imagine I would be at home doing nothing productive, or helping myself grow as an individual. I would probably be on the streets becoming another bad statistics. But thanks to the Y, I now know I have a safe and secure place to be myself and grow.
Dream Big: Make Dreams Reality
We believe all youth deserve the opportunity to discover their full potential. Many are familiar with the YMCA of Greater Boston, but do not know the extent of its initiatives. From athletics to academic achievement, gymnastics to global education and basketball to volunteerism, the YMCA doesn't just strengthen bodies. We strengthen the minds and hearts of people, families and communities. In Greater Boston, the YMCA provides nearly $2.1 million in direct scholarships for children and teen programs so our youth can reach their true potentials and beyond. Together, we can strengthen our community.
Please join us for our Dream Big Party, being held on October 23, 2013, where we will celebrate the BIG hopes and dreams of the youth in our programs. Funds raised through your participation will allow over 35,000 youth all around the Greater Boston area to take part in our programming next year. Active and bright minds lead to healthy development and together, we can make many more dreams, like Reda's, come true.